Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year from the Hedgehog Blog


. . . and it truly was a great year.

Posting will be light this weekend as I head off with the family to Tempe, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl. (I hope I do not find myself in a drizzling rain in Sun Devil Stadium, asking myself why I am not home watching it on TV like all the other New Year's Day couch potatoes in America.)

If you want to read up on the Fiesta Bowl and the 11-0, 5th-ranked Utah Utes, you can do that here.

While we are all looking forward to 2005, here's a cheery column by Larry Kudlow, who thinks the economy is "hitting on all cylinders." I think he's right. If so, that would make for a dandy 2005 for all of us.

Also, Stones Cry Out is a great blog and worth a browse. You'll find it to be a portal into a bunch of interesting political-societal news and commentary.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Post-Christmas Musings

The bane of my post-Christmas week.

As is my custom, I'm taking off the week between Christmas and New Year's. I consider it a week of family Saturdays with few chores, lots of movie watching, board game playing, and book reading. (My wife does not always agree with the "no chores" part, but it's a pleasant fantasy for me to indulge once a year.) As I sit here at my keyboard, trying to shut out the noise of all those leftover Christmas treats beckoning me from wherever they reside in my house, several items caught my eye.

Christmas Spirit

In this very interesting piece from The American Spectator, William Tucker asks:

By all odds, Christmas should be the most depressing time of the year. It's the solstice, it gets dark ridiculously early, it's already cold and you now the
whole winter is still on the way. Catch yourself in an early November mood and
you'll know how miserable December could be. Yet it's just the opposite. It's
the "the brightest time of the year," "that time of year when the world falls in
love," and all those other cliches that are absolutely accurate. People are the
friendliest, most relaxed, kind and generous. Why?
I'm not going to tell you his answer. Read his very interesting and short piece, which includes a brief application of game theory (of all things!) to Christmas.

Michael Moore: A Interesting Specimen

Barbara Bernstein, a Southern California writer, reports here on a December 6 speech by Michael Moore to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. The WAC is a fairly stuffy, mainstream organization, so I was intrigued to learn Moore was an invited speaker. Further evidence of the "Moore phenomenon," I think.

What do I mean by that? Well, I majored in political science and enjoy occasionally putting aside my partisan beliefs (or trying to) and analyzing politics as scientifically as I can. For example, the Clintons evoke strong feelings in both their opponents and supporters. I tend to view Bill and Hillary in much the same way a zoologist would see a new and unusually successful species. The Clintons are truly fascinating when thus examined. George W. Bush is a similarly intriguing political "specimen."

But I'm talking about specimen Michael Moore here. Bernstein's article was striking to me in its reporting of Moore's trademark sheer audacity:

. . . first he emphasized that AMERICA LOVES HOLLYWOOD! No, the outrageous behavior of people like Whoopi Goldberg did not turn off "the people." The problem is, John Kerry wasn't Hollywood enough! In Michael's view, the Democrats have to "stop running wonks who don't have a story." If the Democrats used Hollywood more, they could hone the stories. Even get Tom Hanks to run. Who wouldn't vote for Tom Hanks? For Anything! The only tough question from the audience was voiced by an elderly man who asked Michael if his movie hadn't caused a move to Bush as a reaction. Oh, no, Michael replied. "Fahrenheit 9/11 prevented a Bush landslide..."
Moore is a multi-faceted charlatan, in my non-scientific view, but statements like those fascinate me. Why does he behave that way? Several possibilities come to mind:

  1. Moore actually believes what he says.
  2. Moore is an excellent showman and knows that the more outrageous he is, the more movie tickets and books he will sell and paid speaking engagements he will attract.
  3. Moore is simply an angry, hate-filled man. Remember, we're talking about a man who gleefully observed the following in his newsletter two days before the election:
[To President Bush:] I know it’s gotta be rough for you right now. Hey, we’ve all been there. “You’re fired” are two horrible words when put together in that order. Bin Laden surfacing this weekend to remind the American people of your total and complete failure to capture him was a cruel trick or treat. But there he was. 3,000 people were killed and he’s laughing in your face. Why did you stop our Special Forces from going after him? Why did you forget about bin Laden on the DAY AFTER 9/11 and tell your terrorism czar to concentrate on Iraq instead?

There he was, OBL, all tan and rested and on videotape (hey, did you get the feeling that he had a bootleg of my movie? Are there DVD players in those caves in Afghanistan?)
You can read the whole screed on Moore's site. Maybe I'm wrong, but that kind of rhetoric seems just a bit beyond the pale to me in a time of war.

In any case, I think Moore is a complex individual, clearly very bright, and that all three of the theories above are partly true. He's deeply and passionately motivated, with a sort of oddball Leninist worldview. He's as clever (cunning, really) as they come. And he's angry enough to be willing to make hate-filled statements that cannot stand rigorous examination and that may well not advance his position or his economic prospects. (Face it, as long as he persists in cheerleading for bin Laden and Hussein his core following will remain very small.)

Lately he has been showing up on TV, clean-shaven and wearing a coat and tie, with what sound like more moderate views. I do not think he will fade away; in fact, I think we will see much more of him over the next several years. He will take some of the edges off his positions, ever so slightly, but he'll keep making "hit piece" movies and pushing the envelope whenever he can. As Barbara Bernstein writes:

"This guy can really play the left coast . . . all the way to the bank."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Perspective on The Iraqi Elections


This blog is run by a Judge Advocate General officer (a military lawyer) now serving in Iraq. The author describes the blog, Dagger JAG, as "a Lawyer's life in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division's, 2nd (DAGGER) Brigade." Read it for his views on the impending Iraqi elections.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Red State, Blue State, Purple State: Three Views of the Electorate


The interesting 2004 electoral map shown above appears in a University of Michigan Study that seeks "to use not just two colors on the map, red and blue, but instead to use red, blue, and shades of purple to indicate percentages of voters." You can find larger and more detailed versions of the above approach in a Princeton study by Robert J. Vanderbei here. Both sites are very interesting and worth visiting.

What does all this mean? If nothing else, the map above shows that the red state-blue state divide cannot be analyzed as simplistically as our friends in the elite news media seem to think. Novelist Scott Turow (whose political persuasion is decidedly liberal) thinks the country is really quite evenly divided and that Republican claims of ascendancy are hollow. On the more conservative side of the equation, Deacon at Power Line has an answer for Turow.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Post-Christmas Musings

December 26 at our house.

The Christmas Wars, Cont'd

Mark Steyn writes compellingly here about the attempted "de-Christification" of America. He first notes the flimsy basis for most ACLU attacks on Christian symbols in the public square:

The seasonally litigious rest their fanatical devotion to the de-Christification of Christmas on the separation of church and state. America's founders were certainly opposed to the ''establishment'' of religion, whose meaning is clear enough to any Englishman: The new republic did not want President George Washington serving simultaneously as supreme governor of the Church of America, as the queen today is simultaneously head of the Church of England, or the bishop of Virginia sitting in the U.S. Senate, as today the archbishop of York sits in the House of Lords. Two centuries on, these possibilities are so remote to Americans that the ''separation'' of church and state has dwindled down to threats of legal action over red and green party napkins.
Not too much new there. But Steyn then argues that the secularists have really shot themselves in the foot by attacking public religion frontally. He asks: After every "legal victory over the school board, who really wins?"

For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of ACLU efforts to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicized Christianity in America. By ''politicized,'' I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing ''Silent Night'' if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out, it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: What's more important? Winning a victory over the New Jersey kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?

In Britain and Europe, by contrast, the formal and informal symbols of religious faith remained in place in national life and there were no local equivalent to America's militant litigants, and the result is the total collapse of Christianity: Across the continent, the churches are empty. In attempting to sue God out of public life, American liberals demonstrate yet again that they're great on tactics, lousy on long-term strategy.

The entire piece is full of the usual piercing Steyn wit and logic.

An Excellent Christmas Read

This op-ed piece from the Detroit Free Press tells a story we all need to hear, whether at this time of the year or in the summer, as long as American families have loved ones standing in harm's way on our behalf.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The AP's Complicity with Anti-Democracy Terrorists

Power Line has more on the Associated Press connection to the Iraqi terrorists, which made possible the photograph of the election worker murders below. Hindrocket's conclusion:

The AP is using photographers who have relationships with the terrorists;
this is for the purpose of helping to tell the terrorists' "stories." The
photographers don't have to swear allegiance to the terrorists--gosh, that's
reassuring--but they have "family and tribal relations" with them. And they
aren't embedded--I'm not sure I believe that--but they don't need to be either,
since the terrorists tip them off when they are about to commit an act that they
want filmed.

This is quite disturbing.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas from the Hedgehog Blog

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and blessed New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Three Views of the Baghdad Election Worker Murders


The photo

Most people have already seen the above photo of Iraqi "insurgents" murdering three Iraqi election workers, using time-tested Baathist techniques of intimidation of the public by sensational atrocity. The murders, which occurred in broad daylight on a busy Baghdad street, has provoked revulsion in the West and several other reactions. Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times, slams the killers:

As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, "These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age." They are a tiny minority who
want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. It's time
we called them by their real names.

Of course, Friedman can't restrain himself from hand-wringing about the Iraqi democracy movement's longer-term chances for success, and a slam on the Bush Administration:

We may lose because of the defiantly wrong way that Donald Rumsfeld has managed this war and the cynical manner in which Dick Cheney, George Bush and - with some honorable exceptions - the whole Republican right have tolerated it.

Cynical? Quite a charge to make when Americans are dying. Friedman is so often on target. He is just as often wildly off-target. But at least he does better than his paper, the Times, which is wildly off-target 90% of the time.

Meanwhile, The Belmont Club is starting to do what bloggers do best: Ask questions the older elite media will not ask:

There may be a perfectly plausible explanation for everything, but for the
record let me wonder:

1. How the Associated Press photographer happened to be at the attack
site at the time. Was it on his route to home or work?

2. How he photographed the execution sequence in the midst of an attack
by 30 persons from the middle of the major road (see the photo provided by

Just asking.

We need to go the "country mile" to reach the standard of proof that any
responsible reader would need to form an opinion on the issues.

Well. One must wonder. At a minimum, the photographed killers are pretty doggone lucky to have been captured in the act, thus ensuring world-wide publicity for their effort to intimidate election workers and voters. On the other hand, the assassins were brazen enough not to wear masks, so maybe they did not expect to be photographed. It would be a blow for democracy and decency if they could be apprehended and jailed quickly.

Not surprisingly, the left-leaning (and that's putting it kindly) Salon thinks it is shocking that anyone would ask the questions Belmont Club asks.

To round all this out, Victor Davis Hanson gives a characteristic sober, perspective-filled and scholarly overview of the whole situation, including the Rumsfeld Question.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Chaplain Reports from Mosul

Please read this. If you're like me you will appreciate anew the sacrifices being made for us by the GIs in Iraq. Warning: Not for the faint-hearted.

Meanwhile, Down In Havana


Since everyone seems pretty plugged-in to the "Christmas versus secularism" controversy (see Hugh Hewitt's summary here) I thought it would be good for this little blog to help focus on Cuba, perhaps the last truly Stalinist regime on Earth. For those on the loony or near-loony left (Oliver Stone comes to mind) Cuba still evokes nostalgia for the Cold War, when communist strongmen were viewed downright sympathetically. After all, they were just like their democratic counterparts when you got right down to it, weren't they?

For rhetoric typical of that era, recall U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, who famously said there were "political prisoners" in the USA. Ambassador Young's vacuous rhetoric is one reason that Ronald Reagan became president.

Well, maybe the bell is getting ready to toll for Fidel Castro. John Hughes writes about the pressures on Cuba and Castro here. In light of the demise of the Soviet Union, apparently the only thing that will save Fidel now is help from the European Union. I would not be surprised at all for to see the EU bail Castro out (after all, France is involved in the EU), but it also appears that there are voices within the EU who think helping Castro would be "unconscionable." Does it suprise anyone that those voice come from former Soviet satellite states?

As is often said here, read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

"Just hear those sleigh bells jinglin'/Ring-ting tingling, too . . ."


Ever wonder about the history of those Christmas songs you hear around the clock during December? Here in L.A. one of our local FM radio stations plays all Christmas music, all the time, from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. As I run every morning I get a kick out of hearing old favorites performed in any number of styles by multiple performers. (Today I heard a Bruce Springsteen rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It had me smiling.)

Thanks to good old Hugh Hewitt, I saw this link to a Star Tribune article about the history of some of those old standards. Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2004

More on The PC Dilution of Christmas


"Christmas Tree," Albert Chevallier Tayler
(image courtesy of Christmas Past)

In a U.S. News piece entitled "In Search of Christmas," John Leo reviews the issue and shares some reports suggesting that maybe the tide is turning, just a bit. Or perhaps like-minded folk are at least stemming the tide a little.

UPDATE: Here in California, according to this press report, Governor Schwarzenegger presided over the lighting of the State's Christmas tree, which the past several governors had called a "holiday tree." The Governator said as long as he is in office he will call it the Christmas tree.

Power Line: Time's Blog of The Year

No, that's not a joke or an exaggeration. The incomparable Power Line has been chosen by good old Time Magazine as Blog of the year, in the issue of Time that hits the newsstands today. The same issue names -- gasp!-- George W. Bush Person of the Year. (Doesn't "Man of the Year" sound better? Or Woman of the Year, if it is a woman?)

Apparently the folks at Time could not find a way to avoid recognizing Bush this year. I caught about 2 minutes of the CNN show announcing the decision and was amused by the tone from the likes of Joe Klein: In essence, the Time wise men were all saying "You've got to hand it to Bush. For better or for worse, the idiot has had a major impact on the world." (Shakes head and smiles ruefully.)

Even so, I will break down and buy this week's edition. The Power Line authors suggest here that the story about them alone is worth reading.

Have you ever wondered what the Power Line men look like? Here's the Time photo of (left to right) John Hinderaker, Scott Johnson, and Paul Mirengoff:

Funny. These guys look like the sort of middle-aged lawyers I work with all day, every day. And yet they had a major impact on the last presidential election campaign. Imagine that!

Congratulations, guys.

Buy this week's Time. You won't be supporting the magazine as much as you show Time your support for and interest in blogging and in President Bush.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Can We Have Christmas Without Christmas?


The White House "Community Tree"

It turns out that I have plenty of company regarding my attitudes on removing the word "Christmas" from December. Here's a sampling of commentary on the subject. If you learn of more, let me know:

Joseph Bottums analyzes the larger implications of the issue well in The Weekly Standard. Excerpts:

The city marketing director of Wichita, Kansas . . . led a task force that decided to call their annual Winterfest installation a "community tree"--since otherwise Wichita's etymologically astute citizens might hear the "holy day" in "holiday" and tremble for their children's safety.

In fact, what are we doing with trees at all? A few years ago, the city manager of Eugene, Oregon, banned decorated trees on public property during the month of December. And rightly so. Even a secularized symbol for Christmas is still somehow implicated in it all, a co-conspirator in the attempt to turn America into a theocracy. You can't finally eradicate the religious suggestion lurking in the pines, just as you can't wring every last drop of St. Nicholas out of Santa Claus. And if we allow a tree with ornaments on public land, the next thing you know people will be calling out, "God bless us, every one!" and "Peace on earth, goodwill to men!" And then, of course, the Inquisition.

This is about more, Bottum notes, than whining over a loss of holiday symbols:

Exactly twenty years ago, back in 1984, Richard John Neuhaus predicted much of our current situation in The Naked Public Square. Noting that millions of
believers had come, through the 1970s, to feel "a powerful resentment against
values that they believe have been imposed on them," Neuhaus saw that the likes
of Jerry Falwell had been called into existence by the radical secularists.
America is an "incorrigibly religious" nation, he warned, and so it should stay,
for "politics is most importantly a function of culture, and at the heart of
culture is religion." We strip the public square at our peril.

The ever-incisive Charles Krauthammer, who happens to be Jewish, had a piece in the Washington Post yesterday entitled "Just Leave Christmas Alone:"

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian, and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of . . . what? The winter solstice?

I personally like Christmas because, since it is a day that for me is otherwise ordinary, I get to do nice things, such as covering for as many gentile colleagues as I could when I was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I will admit that my generosity had its rewards: I collected enough chits on Christmas Day to get reciprocal coverage not just for Yom Kippur but for both days of Rosh Hashana and my other major holiday, Opening Day at Fenway.

For a more, shall we say, reserved and politically correct analysis of the issue, here's Michelle Cottle in The New Republic. Her piece is entitled "The Battle Over Christmas." Cottle describes some of the more extreme efforts to battle the PC Christmas as done by "a bunch of nutters" and "Christmas crazies," but she does admit that their side of the debate has a point:

In an effort to acknowledge everyone's beliefs, we're creating a climate in which people are too paranoid to allow the expression of anyone's beliefs.
Clearly this shouldn't be the case. The courts have already established that the
way to handle the issue of religious expression isn't to banish Christmas trees
from the public square but to ensure equal access for anyone who might be
interested in displaying a menorah or the seven symbols of Kwanzaa or a 30-foot
velvet poster of Elvis dressed as the angel Gabriel. (Well, maybe not that last

Basically, everyone needs to unclench and have a cup of frigging eggnog. This is not a slippery-slope issue. A couple of carols sung on school grounds aren't going to lead to mandatory recitation of the Lord's Prayer in math class. And the occasional "Happy Holidays" sign won't open the door to a new era of stoning Christians.

Read them all. And Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Merry Christmas! Say It Again: Merry Christmas! NOT Happy Holidays!


This is not a "holiday scene!"

As December has moved along toward Christmas I have noticed a societal trend that I intend to fight: "Happy Holidays."

Have you noticed too? When you say "Merry Christmas" in some public setting people seem a little taken aback. Sometimes they even respond, "Yes, Happy Holidays."

Bah, humbug.

Look: I have many Jewish colleagues. During the Jewish high holidays I enjoy saying to them, "Good yontif!(holiday)" This never fails to draw a delighted grin.

I'm just the same way. I love hearing my Jewish friends say "Merry Christmas!" and "Happy Easter!" to me. I love telling them "Good Pesach!" at Passover time. It's fun to say "Happy Hanukah!"

But this is not just about Christians and Jews. It's really about religious people and secularists, with a lot of political correctness thrown in. It's bad enough that my two sons, when they were in public elementary schools, had an annual "Holiday Program," in which only the kids could perform only songs like "Frosty the Snowman" and "Winter Wonderland." (The kids also sand a draydl song, which I could never figure out. Isn't a draydl a top-like toy with Hebrew letters standing for "a great miracle happened here?" That sounds suspiciously, well, religious to me. How did that get past the secular police?)

My daughter goes to a school sponsored by a church. What a relief it has been to go the the annual Christmas program and hear Christmas carols, complete with angels and nativity scene. No, I don't think such overtly religious symbols belong in public schools. But would it be so awful for the kids to sing "Silent Night" or "We Wish You a Merry Christmas?" (There's that word again!)

It's this kind of thinking that causes cities like Bellevue, Washington to call the Christmas tree in city hall a "giving tree." Yep, they do. And even that is too much for some people. Read about that here.

You'd think everyone had a Christmas phobia. "Well," they might say, "go ahead and celebrate Christmas. Just don't mention the word in public!"

Along those lines, a blog called "Drink This" posts this helpful chart:

It is Christmas time. It is not "holiday time." So I am going to be a bit of a curmudgeon about all this. As Christmas approaches, my wish and greeting will be "Merry Christmas." After Christmas, as the year end approaches, it will be "Happy New Year!" And if I happen to encounter someone I know who celebrates Kwanzaa, I'll wish them "Happy Kwanzaa!" as well.

And at my house tomorrow night we're having a party. It's going to be a good old-fashioned red and green-bedecked party of the type that would inspire Norman Rockwell. Hint: It's not going to be a holiday party. It will be a Christmas party. As people come and go, I'll be wishing them Merry Christmas.

James Lileks agrees with me, and he's a lot funnier about it than I am being right now. Read Lileks here.

Ho, ho, ho.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Getting into The Country And into The White House



This will get your heart started on a Tuesday morning: Mort Kondracke proposes here that President Bush make immigration reform a major agenda item for his second term, and that Bush apply his customary "boldness" to the issue.

We here at the Hedgehog Blog are, I'm afraid, divided on this issue. Mrs. Hedgehog is a restrictionist ("enough of the free rides!") and I tend to be a realist ("these folks are here and are not going away, let's find a win-win solution"). Mrs. Hedgehog listens to Laura Ingraham and Tom Tancredo talk about ways to "get tough" and it's music to her ears. I liked the Flake proposal and was favorably disposed toward Bush's guest worker approach. Somehow we go on living together.

Presidential Politics

In this Slate article Chris Suellentrop analyzes the impact on presidential politics of the Democratic National Committee and its chair. Suellentrop think's the impact is minor. I don't know if he is right but I still like the idea of Howard Dean as DNC Chair and Al Gore as the party's 2008 presidential nominee. That would be lots of fun and might just provide the nadir the Democrats need in order to get serious about national leadership once again.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Semper Fi


If you're like me you will be filled with both admiration and gratitude when you read this post from Power Line.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Personal Computer: What Could It Become?


If you're like me and use a PC many hours each day, this article by David Gerlernter will speak to your heart-- and your frustrations. An excerpt:
IBM can't think of any practical way to sell its PCs for significantly more money than other companies charge. And IBM is no random group of bums off the
street. Once upon a time it was the most powerful force in the technology world; it still employs some of the smartest people in the field. If IBM has consigned the personal computer to Commodity Limbo, the prognosis is bad. Which is a shame, even a tragedy--because the modern PC is in fact a primitive, infuriating nuisance. If the U.S. technology industry actually believes that the PC has grown up and settled down, it is out of touch with reality--and the consequences could be dangerous to America's economic health.

Gerlernter, who is a fine conservative thinker and happens also to be a professor of computer science at Yale, goes on to list some of the applications PCs could offer us all if only someone smart would get to work on developing them. Again, if you're like me, you'll find yourself saying, "Yes! Boy, could I use that!"

Gerlernter thinks it is inevitable that those applications will be developed, although he is pessimistic about the U.S. role in that process:
Know this for sure: Some company will build all this and more into a radically more powerful, radically simpler PC. Will it be an American company? Don't count on it.
It's a great read for those of us who are captive to PC technology.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Christmas Thought for The Week


"O blind man, blind man! . . . . Not to know that any . . . spirit working
kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too
short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can
make amends for one life's opportunities misused! Yet I was like this man; I
once was like this man!"

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge,
who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my
business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance,
benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of
water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Good Saturday Morning Reads


Steven Hayes attended the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan, after the first popular election in that country in 5,000 years. This event was (surprise!) not covered in the Western press, let alone the American news media. You'll find it here. It's very much worth reading. An excerpt from Karzai's inaugural speech:

Karzai told the story of an elderly woman from the Farah province who came to a polling station with two voter's cards:

She went up to an election worker and declared that she wanted to vote twice, once for herself, and again for her daughter who, she said, was about to deliver her child and unable to come to the polling station to vote. "We are sorry, but no one can vote for another person, this is the rule," the elderly lady was told. So she voted--for herself--and left the station. Later in the day, the election worker was shocked to see the elderly woman back, this time accompanying her young daughter to the polling station. Her daughter carried her newborn baby, as well as her voting card which she used to cast her vote.

Karzai made other comments, the tone of which may be the reason our old-line news media found the story uninteresting:

Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan--the peace, the election, the
reconstruction, the life that the Afghans are living today in peace, the children going to school, the businesses, the fact that Afghanistan is again a respected member of the international community--is from the help that the United States of America gave us. Without that help Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists--destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education. We are very, very grateful, to put it in the simple words that we know, to the people of the United States of America for bringing us this day.
Sometimes I wonder if our American newsies find reporting such unabashed praise of the USA to be embarrassing.

Ben Stein, writer, economist, actor, lawyer

Ben Stein is one writer who's not embarrassed at all to be a patriotic, grateful American. In a short piece for the American Spectator entitled Col. Denman's Luger, he observes:

I have relatives and friends who get out of bed every morning and do an hour of exercise to keep them fit. I don't do that. My exercise is that I get out of bed and hit my knees and thank God for waking up in America, where I live in peace and freedom, no Gestapo chasing me, no KGB putting me in the Gulag, no Hamas blowing me up. All thanks to men like Col. Denman and the heroism he showed capturing this Luger.

That exercise does not keep me thin, most assuredly. But it does set me up for my day by putting me into an attitude of gratitude for the men and women who wore the uniform and still wear the uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere.
Amen. Time to do some more Christmas shopping!

Friday, December 10, 2004

We're Back! With Thoughts On The Future of The Democratic Party, No Less


This piece by Jonah Goldberg is an excellent "drill-down" into the current divisions in the Democrat Party.

It's been a busy time, by the way, but we will try to blog daily for the rest of the month.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Christmas Carols for Mental Health Workers


These carols, organized by diagnosis, may be useful in therapy at this time of year:

Schizophrenia: "Do you Hear What I Hear?"

Multiple Personality Disorder: "We Three Kings Disoriented Are"

Dementia: "I Think I'll be Home For Christmas"

Narcissistic: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing - About Me"

Manic: "Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trees and Fire Hydrants and ...."

Paranoid: "Santa Claus is Coming to Get Me"

Borderline Personality Disorder: "Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire"

Personality Disorder: "You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll tell you Why"

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Peggy Noonan on Dan Rather

She has written a very fine, balanced piece that shows great compassion for Rather but tells the truth. It's right here.

Not One of The More Distinguished Commentaries on The Problems of The Mainstream News Media


The Kalb Brothers, Marvin (l) and Bernard

I didn't notice that anyone picked up on this op-ed piece by Marvin Kalb, a former network correspondent with CBS and NBC. Kalb is described now as "a senior fellow at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Press and Public Policy." The Kalb brothers each have had long and distinguished careers in television news; Bernard Kalb was also a network correspondent and served as State Department spokesman for two years during the Reagan Administration.

So I was hoping that Marvin's piece, entitled "Mad as Hell? Not at the Top," would contain some useful insights into the bias problems pandemic in network television news.

I was disappointed. The concluding paragraphs may tell you all you need to know:

On election night, the conservative Fox cable news channel pulled in a
larger audience than NBC, the network leader — the strongest indication yet that
cable news and its blustery, right-tilting chatter have finally drawn even with
the older networks in the ratings.

That creates a huge additional problem, more troublesome and insidious than all the others: Television must deal with political pressures to conform to resurgent conservative values that appear to be stifling editorial courage in the newsroom. Rather had the inner strength recently to criticize "these partisan, political ideological challenges."

Will his successor have similar courage?

Will the timid network executives have the old-fashioned backbone to take on a crusading administration?

I doubt it.

So the problem "more troublesome and insidious than all the others" is that TV network news might move a little more to the center.

And the supposed solution is to find more anchors who are like Dan Rather, and who have the courage to "take on a crusading administration?"

Please. I don't know about you, but those are not the worries that keep me awake at night. But it's interesting and instructive to see how impenetrable and hidebound is the bias of the network "old guard" types like Marvin Kalb. He's right where he belongs-- at Harvard, where he will talk mainly to those who agree with him and can't do as much damage as if he were still broadcasting.